Chris Loder MP gives maiden speech during Agriculture Bill reading

CHRIS LODER MP MAIDEN SPEECH | House of Commons - Monday 3rd February 2020

Today Chris Loder MP gave his maiden speech during the reading of the Agriculture Bill in the House of Commons:

Thank you Mr Deputy Speaker. I rise to offer my maiden speech as the new member for my home constituency of West Dorset.

My family has farmed in West Dorset for almost 100 years. My grandmother, who during the Second World War was in the Women’s Land Army, met my grandfather when she came to work on our farm; and it is with nearly a century of family insight and experience – of which I am the fourth generation - that I address this house today.

I’m not an academic Mr Deputy Speaker and I did not go to university. But I must pay tribute to two people in West Dorset who did. The first is my predecessor, Sir Oliver Letwin. Sir Oliver has been greatly contentious in more recent times in this place and members shall have their own view on that. As Sir Oliver’s Association Chairman since 2016, I can tell you there was no shortage of correspondence to tell me!

But what the press and members of this place would not have seen so prominently was Sir Oliver’s tireless efforts to support his constituents in the greatest of need, work I have already committed to continue. But despite he and I having differences of opinion on the European Union, he was highly regarded by many as a hardworking and respected constituency MP. 

I should also like to pay tribute Mr Deputy Speaker to the Vicar of Sherborne, Canon Eric Woods. He first came to my hometown in 1993, the same year as I started secondary school. Eric has been a good friend to West Dorset and has just announced his retirement last week after 27 years of service. 

West Dorset is the home of the Jurassic Coast, from Lyme Regis to Chesil Beach. It is Thomas Hardy country. Glorious Sherborne Abbey stands proud above a town that is a world leader in education and where Alan Turing, who cracked the Enigma Code during the Second World War, was educated. The oldest post box in Britain is in Holwell, the village where I went to primary school. There is even a village called Loders!

Morecombelake is home to the famous Moore’s Dorset Knob – a savoury biscuit so famous that we even have the Dorset Knob-throwing Festival! We are also home to Dorset Blue Vinny cheese - and to wash that all down, our very own beverages from Palmers Brewery, Fordington Gin and countless vineyards, to name just a few that you can almost certainly buy from Felicity’s Farm Shop. And as you can see Mr Deputy Speaker, I am living proof that you will rarely go hungry with such good local produce! 

My honourable friend the member for Devizes told us last week of white chalk horses in his constituency. Now I’m not one to boast about size Mr Deputy Speaker, but it would be remiss of me not to point out to my honourable friend that in West Dorset we have the Cerne Abbas Giant – a 55 metre tall chalk fertility symbol, standing to attention whilst dominating the hillside of the Cerne Valley in all his glory!

As beautiful as it is Mr Deputy Speaker, we still have our many challenges and difficulties in West Dorset. Rural isolation, broadband speeds and the continued reduction of rural transport; made worse by the recent announcement by First Group of its intention to remove the number 6 bus between Bridport and Beaminster. We have a 3-hourly rail frequency and our railway lines are mostly single track since the Beeching cuts, There is much to do Mr Deputy Speaker. 

The idyllic countryside does not appear by accident. Our farmers work hard in all weathers, in all seasons and at all times of day. We are seeing unprecedented levels of media depicting our farmers as the enemy of our environment – even going so far as to advocate criminal repercussions against our farmers. Those who say that British beef, sheep and pig farming is the enemy of the environment are completely wrong. Farmers in the UK are the best and biggest advocate of our environment - as it has been so for many years.

Mr Deputy Speaker, this Bill is the most significant piece of UK legislation on Agriculture for 70 years. No longer will we be bound by the EU’s common agricultural policy, spending £44 billion per year and achieving none of its objectives. We can finally define our agricultural destiny and I am delighted that domestic agricultural law and policy decisions have been returned to this House of Commons. Agriculture contributes £8.6 billion to the UK economy. With 72% of UK land being used and cared for by our farmers, it is easy for everyone to see our farmers’ inborn environmental instinct just by looking at the rolling hills of our green and pleasant land. 

For far too long, farmers have been price accepters – having to accept whatever price and conditions the supermarkets dictate, no matter how low. This Bill supports farmers with provision for fairness in the supply chain, and assistance during time of exceptional market disturbance. British farmers need stability and certainty and this is exactly what this Bill will provide.

Mr Deputy Speaker, this Agriculture Bill is a ground-breaking piece of legislation that will transform our farming sector. It is key to achieving a Green Brexit. It will unleash our nation’s farming potential and make our environment better for all of us.